There was a disappointing night of violence following the NBA playoff victory by the Chicago Bulls, including arson, looting and the wanton destruction of property. When the team won the same championship last year in Los Angeles, the celebration immobilized large parts of Chicago and touched off scattered looting and shootings, resulting in the arrests of more than 100 people.

This year, Chicago police were prepared, with hundreds of extra officers on duty to handle the crowds, but the violence was much worse.In the end, at least 300 people were arrested. Looting was reported on downtown Michigan Avenue, at a four-block strip on the west side and at a gas station and beauty salon on the south side.

On the four-block strip on the west side, looters broke shop windows and carried away carpet and other goods as police tried to disperse a crowd of hundreds. Some shopkeepers sprayed fire extinguishers to keep people away. People jumped on cars as if they were trampolines.

Rioters pelted police with bottles and cans. Windows on at least 30 Chicago Transit Authority buses were smashed as they drove their routes. Two Korean businesses were among several set afire. Two people working at the Korean-owned stores were reported injured.

Chicago basketball star Michael Jordan made a television appeal to try to stop the melee, but it was clear that the vandalism and violence would continue.

Considering the fact that violence also briefly gripped the city last year, some might be tempted to explain it away as expected revelry to follow a sports victory. But that's not good enough.

Although news accounts refer to those committing violent acts as "fans," it is not believable that all those involved were actually demonstrating their love for the Bulls. Rather, the perpetrators may have been looking for an excuse for violence. If true, this is a clear signal of urban decay.

With the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict still freshly in mind, it is safe to conclude that urban violence is one of the more severe problems afflicting our country. Neither the King verdict nor the Bulls' victory is adequate explanation for the unwarranted destruction in either Los Angeles or Chicago.

The lesson of the two riots is that government programs aimed at correcting social injustice must be accompanied by stiffer law enforcement.